THE THIRTY-FIRST DAY OF JANUARY IN THE YEAR OF GRACE TWO THOUSAND AND SIXTEEN.
A gracEmail subscriber has heard that Romans 12:1 says our life each day is “worship,” and concludes that we are not required to “go to church” or attend any kind of formal worship. Is that true or not?
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Just true enough to twist and miss the whole point of the passage. After 11 chapters proclaiming and explaining the gospel, Paul now gives the “so what” to all the “what.” Romans 12:1 begins: “I urge you, therefore, brothers and sisters, by the tender mercies of God . . .” Whenever we see a “therefore,” we should ask what it is “there for.” In this case it reminds us that everything we do for God is but a response to his tender mercies shown to us first. Our response includes the gift of our worship–and that includes far more than any of us previously thought.
To the Roman Christians, both Jews and Gentiles, the word “worship” brought up images of special “holy” days on which a special person (a priest) conducted a special religious ritual (a service) in which he presented or offered God a special (holy and acceptable) gift (sacrifice) by burning the carcass of a dead animal. Far too little, Paul suggests, when compared to all of God’s mercies to us! Not dead animals but your own body–alive and serving him. Not on a holy day now and then but every day. Not mere religious ritual but a life busy pleasing a gracious God.
The old religious words fill Paul’s sentence–words like “offer” and “sacrifice,” “holy and acceptable” and “service.” But now the images are not fire and dead animals. They are pictures of living people who have experienced God’s tender mercies and are responding in what Paul calls their “reasonable” or (literally) “logical” service every new day that comes. As for whether formal worship with others is “required,” no one who has begun to understand that “therefore” would even think to ask.